Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ghost Stories

What is a ghost but a disembodied thought form intruding on one's space, disturbing serenity and peace of mind. While the world is awash in spooky ghost sitings and tales of terror, the only ones I have ever met are the figments of my own imagination.

Ghosts stories arise from the recesses of creative brains, which love to imagine scenarios that don't have a substantive reality. Ghosts from the past are people, places and things that haunt our now, pulling us out of present awareness into disassociated realms of discontent or seductive illusions.

The stories we tell ourselves can either horrify or pacify. In either case, the guts of those tales are made of smoke and mirrors, with no objective reality despite all appearances.

The mind will always be the great inventor, spinning endless yarns. But better yet, the one who is watching the stories -- aware, awake, unattached to the version invented by ghostly thoughts -- is the real deal.

After this haunted night of the soul has waned into tomorrow's daylight, All Saint's Day will resurrect the spirit of a love that has no past or present in the eternal now.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Highest and Greatest Good

If anyone has ever sat in the rooms, meaning Alcohol Anonymous, Alanon, or any of the other spinoffs for people with an itch they can't scratch, one of the key slogans is, "Let go and let God." Wise indeed.

For an old atheist-Buddhist like myself, entrusting the welfare of all that is feared and loved to Him doesn't quite work. It's like dropping a penny into a wishing well and hoping that good luck surely will follow.

However, transposing that philosophy into my own experiential reality, there is an equivalent phrase, "May all be for the highest and greatest good." Now that one works like a charm to quell the alarm bells and deliver a piece of serenity.

Often times we find ourselves in the whirling blender of people, places, and life events that stir up hopes, fears, or the millions of other emotions us humans dream up. And these thought-feelings don't feel good, even when the situation seems perfect, because change is the only thing guaranteed.

Will that change be good or bad? Does this downturn in a life situation mean baddies big time, or could it be the thing that brings new life and insight into a reactive mind? Is the great new job the perfect dream and will I be loved and appreciated forever? And so on and so forth.

Because no one really knows the karmic chain of events -- sometimes bad things turn good, good things turn bad, bad things stay bad, good things stay good, and for sure they will always end with the inevitable demise of our earthly bodies.

So for me, the only release from this vice-grip of relativity is the prayer, "May all things be for the highest and greatest good." The vagaries of life are woven into a grand tapestry too large for us to decipher, so why waste time with endless angst and judgement? 

Evolution is inevitable; letting go and relaxing are the key to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coffins and Cadillacs

In the spirit of "being green" a.k.a. environmentally friendly, the following thoughts have arisen.

A high end coffin has much in common with a Cadillac; plushly cushioned, wood grain polished to a high shine, and designed for superior smooth comfort. Brass trim and other niceties add that extra little something for the discerning customer. However, in the former scenario, the person is not privy to the luxury afforded his or her flesh and bones, while in the latter case, a live one perceives his ride as great good fortune.

Cadillac owners take pride in this brand that broadcasts affluence. But the carbon footprint of that car is like a triple D width size 13 man's shoe traversing a tightrope. What it takes from the environment is not commensurate with what it gives back.

Similarly, lavish coffins carried by a minimum of six great men also seem like overkill. Cutting down beautiful hardwood trees and using other resources for something that will be immediately buried or burned seems wasteful -- not to speak of the financial burden of paying thousands of dollars to lay away the deceased in one of these Cadillacs for the dead. (For the indigent, plastic coffins are a bargain at a couple of hundred bucks. But think about that carbon footprint!)

Why do dead people, who could care less about the carcass they left behind, get to sleep for eternity in such luxury when homeless shelters provide cots for their humans who have all 5 senses at work? Or thin mats for refugees in tents camps scattered the world over? Why do car companies make cars that suck up the blood of Mother Earth, competing with one another for the best seductive design?

Taking a sociological view of fancy coffins and luxury cars, status among peers could be the number one feature for these over-the-top creations. Comfort does not cost tens of thousands of dollars, but fancy frills do. In the name of the ALL, perhaps we could reconsider what our societal mind tells us we should have and focus more on what we actually need.

Free will is our inherent birthright. May our will be in harmony with true value.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sex, Lies & Spiritual Teachers

One of the most upsetting moments of young adulthood was my first foray into the world of gurus and the culture of "spiritual seekers." Most people engaged in a student-teacher relationship have expectations of their priests, rabbis, lamas, roshis, imams and gurus, who are all acknowledged as "holy men" by their flock (and in the worst cases proclaimed as such by themselves).

The quotation marks around both the student and the teacher have a logic. A person in search of enlightenment may also be in search of a father or mother, a family, a crutch, or a bevy of other motives other than pure evolution of consciousness, although that too is part of the cake batter.

The teacher, while usually trained for many years in a monastery, seminary or such, may also have landed up in his esteemed role based on more than a desire to serve God or fill-in-the-blanks. He may have been forced into that life because of poverty, family pressure, a need for isolation, fear of the work-a-day world, illusions of grandeur and so forth.

If the seeker and the teacher are not calibrated properly for their respective roles, the situation becomes ripe for abuses of all kinds. The pedaphilia of Catholic priests represents the most extreme end of the spectrum, but the abuse of power by the person who holds the power cards (and that be the "holy man") comes in many forms. Sometimes it is greed and misappropriation of funds, but often times sex is the biggest perk.

I use the pronoun "he" because the vast majority of cases are males who perpetrate abuses. Whether the blame lies with testosterone and/or patriarchal structures, the fact remains: a bevy of spiritual beggars with outstretched hands are ripe for the picking. And the hungry teacher, starved by the isolation of his specialness, can be eager to eat the fruit.

This topic requires volumes to be explored properly, but suffice it to say that my first widely revered teacher invited me into his bed with a gruff, "Come here," as if I were a dog or a slave. My 60's hippy, unrestrained self froze into an ice statue instantaneously and made it no further than the edge of the bed, telling Mr. All-Important that this wasn't the way.

I don't know where my smarts came from and years later I joked that if he had bought me flowers and taken me out to dinner his chances would have grown exponentially (although in fact my body can't be bought by red roses, champagne and filet mignon). But that act of self-gratifying arrogance on his part had me running out the door and down the road.

Years later one of this fellow's compadres, a teacher of great dignity and integrity, explained it to me. He said, "Don't follow the teacher, follow the dharma. The teacher may go to hell for his actions and so will you if you imitate him. So just follow the dharma."

With these wise words, my heart's unresolved, jumbled Rubic's cube came tumbling into alignment.

It is entirely up to us to use our critical factors when choosing a teacher, never elevating him or her to a god-like stature and relinquishing common sense. If we take our power back, and put it where it belongs -- in our own psyche -- than the calibration will be perfect. And if the teacher doesn't want to play ball, well, there are a million other games in town.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Elephants 'R' Us

We've probably all been to a zoo or circus and laid eyes on an elephant. Do spectators know where that giant creature originated, and how it feels to be a lumbering spectacle pelted by peanuts? Or how it was trained to stand on its hind legs, sit upright, lie down, or join a train of elephants strung together by their trunks like a daisey chain?

A complimentary phrase, "You have the memory of an elephant" clues us in to a sad fact. Most elephants were captured in the wild, separated from mother and tribe, and crated off to a foreign world where they were chained and punished into submission. Even if one is born in captivity, elephants are bought and sold, traded like Monopoly cards. And they remember that tearing of the emotional thread. 

The Che Guevaras of the elephant world occasionally rise up and throw off their trainers, using their trunks and feet instead of guns, but with much the same effect. Babies won't do that but the mature elephant, wising up, can suddenly rebel. To us it is a random act of violence. To the elephant, it is deliberate retaliation based on an embedded memory of captivity and bondage.

Our entertainment at its essence is animal slavery, akin to human slavery when our African brethren were snatched from their villages amidst the savannas and forests. Like slaves, elephants survive through submission and performing the tasks of the master. Like slaves, elephants' families were and are separated and sold off, with no regard to the emotional content of those beings.

Amazingly, pockets of humankind now recognize that elephants are one of us. In various countries around the world, they are no longer permitted in zoos and circuses. Allowed to survive in the wild or in sancturaries, perhaps the elephant liberation movement is gaining traction.

I can't castigate myself for delighting at the Ringling Brother's Circus acts at age three, but now I would never patronize a venue where elephants are paraded for show, just as I would never try to locate a slave auction at some underground location in Los Angeles just to delight in the spectacle. 

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that all beings have been your mother at one time or another. While it is hard to wrap one's head around that, we can at least cognize that elephants, and in fact all creatures, have hearts and souls, just like us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Serving Life

The word Angola sends a fear vibration through my heart as I remember news of the atrocities wrought upon that African nation, first during the Portuguese occupation and later through civil war -- not to speak of the tortured souls who actually lived through decades of abject cruelty at the hands of multi-coloured persons.

Angola is also the nickname for the largest prison in the United States, a moniker decidedly not accidental. Housed in Louisiana, it is a maximum security prison where most inmates are lifers, passing time behind barbed wire and bars until death disperses their breath.

Thanks to a prison warden whose Christian beliefs incorporate some of Christ's real teachings, a hospice program was set up for inmates who don't drop dead instantaneously. Like us folks on "the outside," old age and sickness happen to lifers too.

Murderers, rapists and armed robbers are trained in hospice care, often tending to inmates with whom they spent decades in a their contained community. The result? They develop compassion for the dying and respect for the living. They think about the lives they took, whether in anger, or for money, or any other reason that the ego-centered mind will dream up. And they change into the sensitive human beings that they once were as small babes, before misinformed life tripped them up. Big time.

True criminals are people whose empathetic qualities are underdeveloped, enabling them to inflict pain on others without remorse. Whether that law-breaker belongs to a street gang or the US Congress, the only way to end the vicious cycle of suffering is to turn that person into a giver, not a taker.

One needn't end up locked away in Angola, winning the job of hospice provider after years of good prison behavior, to develop the milk of human kindness. But the general principle -- being a giver, not a taker -- is something we can all contemplate in our daily lives. And better yet, implement.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Cure for Narcissism

Recently, a proud mother posted her precocious twenty-something son's blog on Facebook. His words were intelligent, reflective and heart-centered. She had worked diligently to raise such a thoughtful child and his kudos were well deserved.

What struck me was his feeling, rightly so, that too many people live in a cyber-sphere divorced from the wonders of the natural world and human contact (assuming human contact is a good thing these days). The fact that he was using the very tool he eschewed made me smile; escape is near impossible from this 21st century virtual ecosystem.

As a creature inhabiting this cyber environment, my commitment and challenge is to write a blog a day for a year: 79 posts already dispersed into the ethers, with 286 expected to arise. Undergoing this process has lead to some unexpected discoveries -- perhaps not as world shaking as Madame Curie's -- but interesting to me nonetheless.

Therapists and psychiatrists: if you have a patient who suffers from narcissist personality disorder, I have the perfect cure. Assign them to write one blog per day for a minimum of one year and they will never be so involved with their own thoughts and opinions ever ever again. In fact, they will be so sick of their rambling brain and the stories it spins out that they will smile with glee when someone else performs their schtick. Or maybe they will run screaming into the forest to live the life of a mendicant yogi, feeding wild deer from the palm of their hand.

On another bright note, writing a daily blog might steal business away from priests of all stripes. After all, what better confessional than a computer keyboard, a quiet hour or two, and a cup of espresso to purge the soul of its unquiet mind.

For those cyber-friends who are participating in my therapy sessions, at times identifying themselves with "a comment," a "like," or a "share," thank you for being part of an undefined yet tangible circle of healing in the Narcissist's Anonymous room of my mind.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Father Sun, Mother Earth

Father Sun's rays shine diligently upon Mother Earth. This coy woman receives his glowing attention by turning continually, revealing different aspects of her body depending on the time of day.

But She can be moody and as children of this dynamic duo, we are always at their affect. If Mom decides to cover up one of her parts to hide from Dad, us kids will live under a gray cloak smothering us like an oppressive blanket that sweats rain, snow, or hail. Or, she can withhold that protective shield and allow the wrath of Dad to scorch us with firey heat.

This writer has a mind that absorbs the activities of her heavenly parents on a subconscious level, and she behaves like the unhappy child of divorced parents when Mom blocks Dad from seeing the kids or doesn't guard us from his ire.

So above, so below: children drink in the energies of their parents on a subtle and not so subtle level. Often they grow up as abusers, having been abused -- or loving, having been loved. The happy few notice their subconscious imprints and consciously resolve to evolve them.

What we do has an impact. What we notice has an impact. Today, I resolve to apply mindfulness to my moods, my reactions, and everything else under the sun.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A New Heart for the Dick

Ex-VP Dick Cheney has a new heart. His old diseased one was twice the size of his good-as-gold new organ, which pumps like a champ.

After viewing the mangled discards in a slop bucket alongside an X-ray of the new and improved tight little organ, counter-intuition strikes again. "Bighearted" usually implies someone with great love. Alas, this similitude lives on in the world of metaphor only. In truth, Dick's repulsive  leftovers mimic his equally repulsive thought processes.

This man wielded power over the lives of millions. His duplicitous policies caused mayhem, death and destruction. At the very same time, he fought to live by undergoing every heart procedure known to mankind. He now enjoys a life of peace on his Wyoming ranch, delighting in his borrowed heart and granddaughter's antics as she barrel races her thoroughbred, a good ol' tradition of the American West.

When questioned as to whether his chronic and debilitating heart ailment effected his judgment as Vice President, instead he proudly pointed to his achievements, one of which was "enhanced interrogation" a.k.a. torture. A direct violation of international law which goes largely unenforced, nonetheless Dick was proud of his trademark policy.

Watching the cold blue eyes of this man as he describes his innovations as it they were the crown jewels of American diplomacy, an icy thought-wind traverses my body from head to toe. And then, the usual dismay coupled with amazement.

How can a human being of Dick's education and intelligence not understand that the will to live and love is universal?  That pain, needlessly inflicted for self-serving needs, is a crime against humanity, one which requires the most profound repentance and reparations to repair?

The answer is obvious -- it is an ingrained ignorance of the interconnectedness of all beings and a view that "the other" does not require the same kindness and care that we give "our own."

The most profound insight leads to the conclusion that we are interpendant. Scientists know this, yogis know this, and anyone with their eyes wide open can see this.

The truth is hidden in plain sight.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Calling On Angels

Statisticians claim that 80% of Americans believe in angels, while 50% believe in "creationism," which is the denial of evolution and the belief that God created the world exactly as it was in the past, present, and potential future. 

Being an angel lover myself, it is comforting to know that so many of my countrymen hold these light beings close to their hearts. Suffice it to say that when one sees a golden light being standing behind a troubled person and giving comfort, one goes beyond belief into the realm of experiential knowledge.

Mystical experiences aside, I am also a person of reason and find it truly alarming that half of the 316,882,000 inhabiting this nation survive on blind faith that flies in the face of all empirical observation and scientific evidence. If the sermons of fundamentalist preachers and the literal interpretations of holy books can pervert the intellect of half of the citizens of the United States, then what are the madrasah's of Pakistan doing to the impressionable minds of their young? Are we any different when certain groups lobby to ban the subject of evolution in our schools?

The Dalai Lama once pointed out that Buddhist scriptures (and this would apply to other religions as well) were written in times when the cultures were radically different, in particular relating to women's rights and certain rituals. He remarked that one must make allowances for the times and discard what no longer makes sense in the 21st century, while keeping fundamental truisms.

So today, I call on angels to whisper inspiration and enlightened thoughts in the heart-ears of humans in every small hamlet, town and city on this spaceship Earth.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reality Check

I rarely see feature films that contain extreme physical or emotional violence because of the powerful effect of that medium. Sitting in a dark room, sound bouncing off the four walls, visuals larger than life, and people on all sides of me in reaction -- no thank you. Those skillfully crafted images plant seeds in my unconscious that sprout unease and fear long after the lights go up in the theater. It can take days of uneasy sleep before the crash boom bang fades away, especially if torture is part of the thrilling plot.

However, I will watch a documentary on almost any subject, with no hangover except thoughtfulness. In the last three days I have seen one on cancer patients in hospice; a family of three grown daughters having Christmas with the father that raped and beat them daily; and for the final touch, one about prostitutes in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico who are more or less slaves although legally free.

My husband and adult children regularly ask me why I won't see a violent fictional movie but watch documentaries on some of the more awful things people can do to one another (including all the ones on genocide I have purveyed in the past year).

There is a difference between spending millions of dollars to imitate the worst of human nature, and documenting the troubles that actually exist on the human planet. I do refuse to watch documentaries on cruelty to animals and fish as it is too painful to watch the agony of slaughtered innocents (although it behooves meat/chicken/fish eaters to do the research and decide what food sources they want to support).

Admittedly, after the last three docs on the menu, I do feel psychically slimed by the death and debasement of the worlds into which I descended. But these are worlds that can be effected by change, and that is why I want to know about them.

While I sit in my enchanted garden alongside a loving husband and family, with enough money to buy food in any one of the 7 supermarkets within a few miles of my house, I wonder how reality can be so different for human beings living on the same planet.

Some call it karma, but personally, I can't take credit for the family I was born into, or the education that was afforded me, or the privilege of exposure to arts and culture. A common "spiritual" belief is that one chooses the family circumstance they are born into. With no conscious experience of that, I make no assumptions.

The world is full of sorrow and the world is full of equanimity, depending on where you enter this life form and how you navigate its turbulent waters. Everyday I think and think and think. How can the lucky ones make a difference?

For those of us not on the front lines of struggle, the most immediate form of justice that levels the playing field is the practice kindness and generosity.

As Pema Chodron recommends, "Start where you are."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Slavery is Alive and Well, Sick

Slavery is not the horror of a savage past. An open secret keeps it a thriving business in India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria and "those other countries." And yes, here too in the USofA, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Your average run of the mill slave gets up at 6AM and works until midnight seven days a week; most probably a young person (starting at about age 6) that is beaten, underfed, unpaid, divorced from contact with family, and denied education. The odds of escaping that scenario are slim to none save an outsider with considerable legal clout taking notice. Even then, the lucky slave who gets free represents a tiny percentage of those who live hell daily.

One particular kind of human bondage is the sex trade, and in this category, the United States ranks number one in the world for the importation of underage girls. They come from all over: Eastern Europe, Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, Nepal and other places where American dollars are golden purses for those who would sell young virginal flesh. 

The recent arrest of 108 pimps nationwide has minimal impact on the huge numbers of human traffickers still at large, although the FBI sting was a victory of sorts.The most popular cities for underage sex slave trade are San Francisco, Detroit, and Jacksonville, to name a few of the top takers. Somehow I can picture Detroit as a hub for depravity, as it is a city in shambles where desperate people do desperate things. But San Francisco? That picturesque city built on seven hills?

Who can explain the pleasures of perverse, cruel men who employ underage slave prostitutes...

The only cure for these behaviors (besides a hefty jail sentence), and indeed all harming actions, is empathy. One can talk about compassion for all sentient beings, but without the ability to feel what "the other" feels, people will continue to inflict their isolated heart-thought-actions on their victims of choice.

How one develops empathy can be complex, but it starts with hearing the feelings of "the other." While the sociopaths of this world may not be able to hear anything at all, at least the rest of us can try! Maybe then our families, communities, states and nations will begin to evolve.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cats & Dogs Reconcile

click on above link to watch the video

After two tortuous weeks of witnessing craziness on Capitol Hill, I would like to lighten up and pass along this eleven minute You Tube video, guaranteed to make the most intransigent curmudgeon chuckle.

But this little video is not mindless entertainment. Hang in until its conclusion, even if the idea of taking eleven minutes out of your busy life seems impossible -- because you will find a ray of hope amidst a sea of bad news stories about bad news human beings.

For those of you who fight like cats and dogs, notice the lessons these wonderful creatures have learned. Can we learn our own lessons as elegantly as our domesticated four-leggeds?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The $24,000,000,000 Debacle

If anyone thinks the Kardashians are big spenders, consider Uncle Sam. Apparently, he shells out $52,000 per second to prop Mother Liberty upright so that she doesn't keel over.

Try imagining this amount being dispersed in one dollar bills over the course of a year. Better yet, don't try. No previous observable phenomenon would prepare oneself for this visualization, not even if one were the drug lord of a banging cartel.

The fifteen day government shut down, caused by the intransigence of extremist right wing Congressman, cost no less than $24,000,000,000. This factoid is even more mind-boggling than a blizzard of dollar bills, in terms of spending power squandered.

Tea Party Republicans preferred throwing good money after bad because of "principles," which makes no sense whatsoever because they tossed a bloody fortune down the toilet in the name of saving money. The whole scene reminds me of a bad divorce, where one member of the couple is hell bent on destroying the other with endless lawsuits, leaving the coffers bereft for their kids, and each other for that matter. (But hey, the lawyers are doing swell!)

So what does this factoid signify to the little people who use ATM machines to spit out a few 20's now and then?

One could throw out a few interpretations:

 -- the fox is in charge of the chicken coop and inspite of all the squawking, we're dead meat...

-- our lawmakers suck at math...

-- facts and opinions are interchangeable moving targets...

-- the American empire is crumbling way faster than any of the other big boys (the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, to name a few)...

-- the rapture will come and only 144,000 will be left, giving the Tea Party a rousing majority and causing them to dump the tea and use the water to make wine instead...

So in the spirit of bupkis, good morning or good night, depending on where the sun don't shine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Would Jesus Say?

Old age has not been kind to Jimmy Carter's face; red-rimmed, faded green eyes and skin minus its youthful elasticity have given his countenance a ghostly air. Yet, his wisdom shines forth from a beautiful mind unsullied by time.

Although no one would dare elevate him to the stature of a Jesus, he could be portrayed as a champion who challenges the temple money lenders, those anti-Robin Hoods who rob the poor to pay the rich a.k.a. most Republicans and bottom-line corporate folk who have no trouble with a massively unbalanced upward cash flow into their coffers.

What would Jesus say? 

 If you don't want your tax dollars to help the poor -- then stop saying that you want a country based on Jewish* values.

*Jesus might not have been pleased that his followers invented Christianity and then had the nerve to designate him a Christian, postmortem.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blind Man Falls Into Hole

Zen practitioners employ koans, which are questions designed to mystify the rational mind and evoke an utterly frustrating reaction so that one gives up the attempt to deduce a logical solution. In that 'not knowing,' the mind expands into heretofore unseen possibilities of connectivity (providing the student sticks with koan meditation and doesn't run out of the zendo screaming mad).

The most widely known koan amongst us Western savages, who try to understand ancient teachings by way of Japan, is, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

If one were a dog with super hearing, the answer could be, "A whoosh of air, " as that one hand claps against a wall of air molecules. But as we are not dogs, that explanation won't cut it with a stern Japanese Zen master, who will slice you to bits for this cop-out answer.

In the meantime, I recall an American-style koan which may be more simple for us spiritually challenged folks.

A ditch digger has been charged with the task of digging a hole 6'x6' for his boss. Not being bound by labor laws or city ordinances (perhaps this tale was birthed in Detroit), he finishes his task and leaves the hole in the ground uncovered, with no barricades or cones surrounding it to warn passersby. A blind man comes strolling along without the requisite cane, guide dog or Good Samaritan on his elbow. A onlooker lounges nearby drinking his chai latte and watches blithely as the blind man walks straight into the ditch, with unfortunate results for his frail skeleton.

Who is to blame? The ditch digger who didn't employ safety measures? The blind man without his cane, guide dog, or guide person, who dared to take a stroll on his own? Or the looky-loo who does nothing to prevent the catastrophic surpise awaiting the blind man?

The French have settled the problem with a law, non-assistance à personne en danger. The dude drinking the chai latte would go to jail. (The French can be so civilized if you care to ignore their Colonial past and other unpleasantries...)

But just as we are not dogs, Americans are not subject to French law; thus the problem still begs an answer. 

The Buddhists have a solution, called the bodhisattva ideal; the driving force behind the individual is compassionate action. If one embraces this ideal, then once again, it is our chai drinker of lore who would hold the bag.

Expanding the perspective yet again, if all were to embrace the bodhisattva ideal, then the interdependent nature of the ditch digger, the blind man, and the onlooker would intertwine as One being. And in that awareness of unity, every being would take care to protect the whole, as in that protection is one's very own salvation...or safety net if you prefer.

Counter-intuition rises its head again: the best self-preservation is serving the All. So be it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Tarot Speaks

No set formula or theme informs the content of this daily blog. The primary guideline is to allow thoughts to be born in the present moment -- a spontaneous arising of something that wishes to come forth. Brainstorms from the night before are not permitted, nor are "plans." Even when I want to violate my own parameters, by the time daylight sneaks up, previous ideas have evaporated along with dreams.

So the offering for today is a mini-tarot reading. The question asked was, "What do readers need to know today?"

A site on the internet provides free tarot readings; instead of a gypsy-type person shuffling cards and spreading them out before the seeker, the computer allows one to click on "shuffle," "cut the deck" and "select cards." Having used this site over the years with informative results, I reckon that the computer has been programmed just as well, if not better, than the mind of a tarot reader.

And this is what came up:

Situation: Three of Cups

You should be able to notice a trend toward cooperation and harmony among those around you. The card that lands in the Situation position refers to social or circumstantial factors which could be affecting your life at this time. 

When the Three of Cups is in this position, you are privileged with the opportunity to see people overcome their differences, reuniting along the lines of their mutual best interests. Not only is this a wonderful sight to behold, it's also worthy of encouragement and nurturing.

The environment becomes sweeter as people begin to appreciate each other. Feelings of safety, bonding and mutual admiration prevail. Mutual appreciation is the most effective style of interaction -- where everybody gets his or her needs met and receives plenty of acknowledgment. It's encouraging to see this trend emerge in your immediate environment.



Although this can't be sent to every member of Congress and the President, let's vote for optimism over fear today and take the tarot as prophesy. Since we chose our thoughts anyway, why not sit yourself down on this most positive one, no matter what the climate feels like where your body is parked.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Change We Can Disbelieve In

According to national surveys conducted by non-partisan groups, the radical right wing -- neofascist Christian white folks as well as a sprinkling of other ethnicities -- are not happy that we have a president of color, who is actually a true African American hybrid. Yes! In 2013! With the current population trending towards a dominance of people who are not lily-white, the former Silent Majority are fast becoming the Vocal Minority.

A thorn in the foot might not seem life-threatening, but that small sliver will cripple you to move freely and if left unattended, cause a pernicious infection. Likewise, through gerrymandering that was voted into law by a Republican Congress, these right wing nuts hold sway in districts that will always elect their own, despite overwhelming proof that they could very well take down the world economy.

The change that we believed in has turned into a clock with its hands spinning backwards -- not because Obama has been unable or unwilling to stop playing with the good old multi-national corporate boys -- but because of that little thorn called racism, better described as tribalism.

After watching footage of a Tea Party rally held last week and hearing the views of the white folks in attendance, I suddenly felt afraid for the American system of governance for the first time in my life. The misinformation, stupidity, and sheer ignorance that was spouted as gospel was beyond belief, except that these people are actually political activists. And also the ones with the guns.

So while many of us sleep comfortably in our beds, there is a rising disparity of wealth, deficits in the education of our young, unemployment, news disinformation and more. Furthermore, fear runs amok in the White Right Tribe. With these factors in play, a mudslide of historic proportions can send us sliding over the cliff with a speed of surprising momentum. 

"To be forewarned is to be forearmed," to quote one of my favorite aphorisms. So if we want change we can believe in, we need to act to change the beliefs before we are left with no spare change.


Saturday, October 12, 2013


In the past, have you ever taken an action that caused pain to other beings, human or otherwise? Or been on the receiving end of a behavior that was perceived as wrong or unfair? Have these thoughts tormented you like a ghost haunting a deserted mansion once filled with music, laughter and champagne?

Torture. Torment. Closely related states that love to hate.

Life's cruel joke is that we think it is the "other" who inflicts the quicksand of distress upon us, when it is none other than an ego-based version of ourselves.

An incredible lesson: the Dalai Lama met with a highly esteemed Tibetan lama who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese for over two decades, for no reason other than the fact that he was a Buddhist monk. His Holiness asked the monk what was entailed in the most challenging aspect of his detention, thinking that the answer would contain details of the horrendous mutilations he had endured. Instead, the monk replied, "My greatest fear was that I would lose my compassion."

Another lama, Lobsang P. Lhalungpa, endured similar horrors in a Chinese prison. He related the following: "People ask me how I can have compassion for the enemy when they will never have compassion for me. But it is not for the enemy that I have compassion. It is for myself."

Therein lies the key that unlocks those unforgiven thought-prisoners that rattle the bars encasing our heart. It is one's very own self that suffers the agonies of jealousy, pride, fear, hate, anger, and other negative emotions - although it doesn't feel groovey to be the receiving end of one of those electomagnetic tasers either.

So while it is commendable to stop destruction in its wake, the underlying self-talk is paramount to whether we drown in the battle or forge through it to rise again.

Our choice entirely. Unforgiven...or self-liberated.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Google Statz

The website where this blog lives is served up gratis of Google. An interesting and unexpected perk is called "stats," a feature available only for the Lord of the Blog.

"Stats" tells its Lord how many visitors have clicked on the blog and hopefully found something redeeming to read. Better yet, it reports where on the planet the bloggee has clicked in.

In the spirit of transparency, here's the scoop since inaugurating the blog on August 16, 2013.

Thanks and hello, world citizens!

Stats up to Oct. 6, 2013
United States
United Kingdom

Stats only for the week of Oct. 6-13th, 2013
United States
United Kingdom
South Africa

A+ Hollywood

Yesterday I dropped into an alternate universe: the set of a Hollywood movie that was being filmed by an A plus filmmaker. As any and all photography was prohibited - and my iPhone charge was plummeting like the Congress's popularity ratings - there was no way to digitally immortalize this unique window into a highly developed art form.

OK, so the director and the actors were mesmerizing, but equally fascinating was what went on behind the scenes. The beehive of people with electronic contraptions strapped to every body part to communicate effortlessly across sound stages, the graceful choreography of multi-pronged logistical maneuvers, and last but not least, the food. Class acts require class menus and abundance was an understatement. Fish - chicken - sushi - roast beef - tofu, veggies of all kinds, not to speak of the snack table on the set; always replenished to prop up lagging blood sugar (or greed in my case) for the crew, with an array of food that surpasses the contents of my refrigerator on its best days.

At the moment I'm producing a documentary funded by thin air. In contrast to the culinary comforts of Hollywood with a capital "H," our miniscule crew often shares a bag of almonds for lunch, or Luna bars, even though I am the only female. (For the uninitiated, Luna bars are made for women, though none of the males working on the doc have grown breasts from eating the Luna bars supplied by moi.) And fawgettabout any snacks.

Despite the obvious differences in budgets, the legendary skill of the A+ director and his superb crew, and the size of the audience that will hopefully see this movie - compared to a small documentary born of relative novices - there are similarities that apply across not only films large and small, but all human endeavors.

Gifted or powerful people can't manifest visions without a team to support those thought pictures that are born at an undisclosed time and place. Understanding this interdependency means valuing every effort equally. No one is better or inferior than the next one. 

The whole truly is greater that the sum of the parts. (Was that something gleaned from a math curriculum or simply a platitude wrenched from the collective unconscious?) Knowing or understanding that truism, one can develop real self-worth and regard for others as well.

In the meantime, the afterglow of a day in fantasy land continues to warm the cockles of my heart. We may all be equal, but there is nothing like the magic of movies to forget it all...


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cutting Through the Gordian Knot

If all the current ills of the world were printed on pieces of computer paper in 1 pt. typeface, they would probably decorate earth's girth many times around, like a giant streamer. As beings with a limited amount of time on this earth, it is impossible for any one person to absorb the oceanic depth and breadth of information available through cyberspace, literature, newspapers, gossip and other unearthly mediums.

Myth has it that Alexander the Great cut through the Gordian Knot with one swift blow of his mighty sword. Thus following his example, rather than trying to untangle the near infinite causes and conditions contributing to the suffering of the many, I prefer to keep it simple and apply one theory to all woes of the world...self-interest.

With the exception of a few tribes here and there, most nations throughout the millennia have expanded incessantly to fulfill ever growing appetites and desires, unfettered by compassion or concern for the weak or the vulnerable. Like the animal kingdom, ours is a societal food chain, currently with America at the top, balanced precariously at this apex of the FDA food group triangle.

Yet there is another side to human nature: those who are dedicated to finding cures for disease, or green solutions to preserve our natural environment; artists to add beauty and insight to our lives; humanitarians who risk it all to serve, and so on and so forth. A garland of compassionate action is the common thread that ties the best of humanity together.

Despite the overwhelming number of crimes against life, we can cut through the morass of misdeeds with the swift blade of love and selfless service. Life may seem complex, but the answers are simple: apply love, compassion, wisdom, equanimity, oneness, justice, forgiveness...and watch the world transform into a heaven on earth.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Unburied Past

Unless one has been meditating in a cave in the Himalayas for the past sixty years - or is a senior tech support person at Apple  -  or is coming of age in the current American school system where only 20% of high school students know what Lincoln stood for - MOST of us know of the past horrors of racism in the American South, which rivaled South African apartheid. (One must know a smidge about world history to understand this last reference.)

Images of police dogs and their handlers attacking civil rights marchers have been abundantly aired since the activism of the 1960s. But there is nothing like an in depth, personal account of that era to make one's heart hurt, literally.

Last night, I was trying to navigate my TV remote to select a comedy on Netflix. As usual, it disobeyed my commands, leaving only one easy option to select: a documentary about a person of color in Greensville, Mississippi back in 1952. Technological ineptitude accepted; a black and white image rolled onto my screen that was emphatically not comedic.

The bottom line synopsis: a kind, hardworking, relatively successful black man had made a statement about the pain of being regarded as a "n_ _ _ _ _" in Greensville, on camera, for an NBC crew that was doing a special about racism in the South. When it aired in 1954, the people of Greensville saw his statement. Consequently, this man of color had his grocery store fire-bombed, he was badly beaten and eventually murdered.

Cut to 2012. The son of the man who made the NBC special interviews his father and the three daughters left fatherless when their daddy was sacrificed by white racist rage. Now in a slightly more tolerant era, the grown daughters are educated and have realized the dreams of their father. But the shrapnel left by their experience of persecution lies everywhere, littering the social-emotional-psychic landscape. 

This documentary drives home a point that is as painful as a stake in the heart. Every human being wants love, respect, opportunity and dignity. Those who view "the other" as less than fully human are truly ignorant and this blindness causes suffering of generational proportions.

Whether one lives in a hovel or a mansion, is illiterate or professorial, in rags or in haute couture - we are all the same.

One day may the essential sameness of the human being be celebrated.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What the Mystics Knew All Along

Yesterday the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to two eminent physicists. Never mind that three others had published the same findings beginning in 1964 but got short shrift due to Swedish "rules" - the way of the world.

I quote the New York Times below out of sheer malaise; my espresso machine broke this morning and black tea isn't cutting it.

"According to the award-winning scientific model called the Higgs field, the universe brims with energy that acts like a cosmic molasses, imbuing the particles that move through it with mass, the way a bill moving through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming more and more ponderous and controversial...without the Higgs field, all elementary particles would be massless (sic) and would zip around at the speed of light. There would be no atoms and no us... this invisible ocean of energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the universe, a crowning recognition for the scientists who came up with what is now known as the Higgs boson." 

Now on to something you won't find in the mainstream media: anyone properly schooled in Buddhist philosophy could tell you that yogis, gurus and mystics dating back more than 5,000 years knew about the Higgs field from direct meditative experience a.k.a. that the foundation of all matter comes from a powerful energized void, from which infinite varieties of forms are manifested in an awe-inspiring display of appearances. The void is potential and absolute, while its materialization is varied and relative.

Once that vast energy comes into material form, watch out. The laws of our particular planet will take over and every single conglomeration of molecules that form a "something" will have a beginning, middle, end and rebirth. And so goes the wheel of existence, better known as samsara in the East.

Think of it another way: waves rise out of the ocean and each one has a unique form and a distinct impact depending on causes and conditions. Yet the wave is never apart from its source, the ocean, and recedes back into its watery basis once the energy propelling it to arise has passed through it.

The Dalai Lama has long sought to bridge western science and meditative awareness, as he noted the quantum physics was coming up with similar conclusions as the sages of old. For those who enjoy building multi-billion dollar particle colliders and other mega-machines that stare into space, knock yourselves out. As for me, I think that I will follow the Dalai Lama's teachings and simply sit under a tree. It's a bit more convenient and cost-effective for this mathematically challenged average Jane.

Between the Frying Pan and the Fire

When the first inklings of a pandemic started brewing in late January, I was in Bodgaya, India, the place where the historical Buddha attai...